Expectations that do not correspond to reality, poor-quality tools, or even bad habits can harm virtual work. Let’s take a look at what best practices managers and employees are applying remotely to become the best of the best.
To this day, many of us have already learned how to work productively from home. Favorable working conditions are a matter of individual preferences. For someone, it is two monitors and headphones with noise cancellation, for someone – just a favorite mug and comfortable slippers. When you’re in your comfort zone, like in a bubble, working from home becomes easy. But then you get to the first Zoom meeting of the day, and your bubble called “remote work” bursts into reality.
Virtual collaboration can be the hardest part of remote collaboration. Different work styles, expectations that do not correspond to reality, low-quality technologies or even bad habits can interfere with effective cooperation and make the prospect of long-term remote work frightening. You can organize your personal workspace the way it is convenient for you, but if teamwork is expected, you will have to think about more effective methods of virtual collaboration.
Best Practices for Working Remotely
Next, we will talk about what prevents successful work in a virtual format and how to become the best employee and team leader at a distance.
1. Set clear requirements
Now people work from different places and no longer meet in office corridors or kitchens. The key to successful virtual communication is finding common ground and the right time to communicate. Be aware that each employee may need their own time to communicate, based on their professional responsibilities and personal needs. Sometimes you have to put in the effort and take the time to synchronize communication between team members. Clear requirements will help employees understand what is expected of them and set boundaries between work and personal life.
While it’s difficult, remote employees need to stay focused. After a few hours spent in Zoom meetings, it’s hard to focus and not be distracted by checking email or other tasks. Sometimes people lose interest and just don’t turn on the video. Establishing clear rules helps increase the productivity of remote collaboration.
2. Keep it simple
The effectiveness of remote communication directly depends on the simplicity of communication, that is, the ability to use as few tools as possible to obtain the necessary information. People think that if a colleague needs additional data, at any time you can write or contact by video to discuss the issue. For example, imagine a front-end that opens a task called “Change Button Color” where there is no additional information. The developer will have to take the time to contact colleagues in the chat with a request to describe the problem in more detail only to find out that in fact additional information is in an email from customer service.
Learn to communicate effectively and efficiently. When you want to send a message to colleagues using any tool, collect your thoughts in a heap and send all the information at once instead of sending it in parts through different channels. Take a few minutes to collect data, links, images and place them in one channel. This will allow colleagues to spend less time searching for information, save valuable time and make work more productive.
3. Stop interrupting people
One of the worst habits is when people interrupt each other during video conferences. This is mainly due to communication problems and interference, so employees should take these points into account. When one person speaks at a meeting, others can simply chat about what they want to say. Use the “raised hand” function or a simple smiley face in the chat to let the manager know who wants to speak. Virtual meetings could be more efficient if everyone adopted this technique.
4. Be less distracted
Remove distractions before starting communication, otherwise you will not be able to focus on the interlocutor. Make more one-on-one phone calls with colleagues. Not just zoom calls, but regular phone calls, which can be a very powerful tool for getting new ideas. We interact through communication, as well as when we listen, think, concentrate. You can call each other to come up with something new together.
If you are going to communicate with a colleague, respect his space and fully focus on solving the issue. Try the Pomodoro technique: define periods for yourself to fully concentrate, for example, 30 minutes or an hour. Your mind knows there’s going to be a break soon and allows itself to direct all your energy to the task. If you’re communicating, don’t be distracted at this point. For example, if you’re talking on the phone during a Zoom video call, put your phone away from the camera or turn on the phone. Immerse yourself fully in the task. It will also help make your meetings more productive and shorter.
5. Remove background noise
Background noise is a serious problem. Most of us do not forget to turn off the microphones, but from time to time we can still lose sight of this moment. Find a service that detects and activates the microphone only when the volume exceeds a certain level that you can adjust. This means that the microphone is activated at the moment when it recognizes your voice. Of course, the best option is to find a quiet place or at least a separate room with a closed door.
6. Limit Constant Breaks
IT professionals underestimate how distracting message notifications or an unscheduled Zoom meeting can be. Workplace studies have shown that it takes workers 5 to 20 minutes to fully focus on a task after any break. In task-laden IT companies, such breaks can occur several times an hour.
In order not to forget about meetings on Zoom, you can mark them in advance in the calendar as important tasks. Employees are also encouraged to change the status of message sending notifications (remove audio or toast notifications) and instead check them every 15 minutes. Use Do Not Disturb mode when performing important tasks. By following these three simple rules, you will significantly increase the productivity of your working day and will be able to perform tasks in a more comfortable environment. Of course, urgent and important issues that will require immediate attention are not excluded, but you can change your attitude, distracting only by the most urgent of them, and not by everything in a row.
7. Invest in modern technologies for virtual work
Please make sure that your communication equipment is of high quality and working, because a constantly hissing microphone or a webcam that gives a blurry picture is not suitable for a productive meeting. If you have the right equipment, during each meeting you can focus only on its content and not be distracted by anything else. It’s a simple respect for colleagues.
8. Don’t limit yourself to just videos to work with
Many are already tired of Zoom and other tools for video conferencing. The best way to combat this is to suggest other ways of interacting besides video calling. For example, you can use virtual whiteboards to collaborate. This is a good opportunity for the meeting coordinator to gather ideas from all employees and get feedback. The topic of the meeting can be indicated in advance, so that colleagues collect the necessary information and formulate their thoughts.
9. Be available and respond in a timely manner
Virtual communications are very different from walking to the next office in the office. To interact with colleagues productively, you must be in an accessible area. If you do not respond to work messages on time, you may miss something important, and then the project deadlines will be disrupted. Communication is closely related to productivity, and in a remote work format, this is especially evident. Try to respond as quickly as possible, do not be afraid to be even very fast in some cases. Make sure that your answer reaches the recipient and he understands the information correctly.
10. Evolve and be open to change
To become the best virtual employee in 2021, keep building on what you started in 2020. If you haven’t built the right communication before – communication channels, team meetings, virtual work methods, tools, regulations – now is the time to start doing this in order to form a new system of work for the future.
Analyzing which methods have worked well and which have worked poorly in the past year is a great way to find better solutions and move toward new achievements. Perhaps some of these points will have to be pumped, but effective teamwork is worth it.